For nearly six months, the people of North Preston, N.S., have been spending their Sundays praying at the community centre.
In March, a fire destroyed St. Thomas United Baptist Church. But this Sunday, community members were finally able to go home.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to be back in church, to be back home and to celebrate with all family and friends that have come from afar,” said Rev. Wallace Smith on Sunday.
“It was like a roller coaster ride. But God blessed us. We knew some point in time that this day would come, but we weren’t sure when.”
Hundreds of people filled the church to celebrate the reopening with song, dance and prayer.
Everyone, including the children, had on their Sunday best: from beautiful dresses to brightly coloured suits to lavish, sequined hats.
“It feels exciting. We are so lifted because of what the lord has done for us … Even people we don’t know have supported us in our time of loss,” Smith said.
‘My heart broke’
Micah Smith said she was on the bus on her way to work when she first heard about the fire.
”My heart broke … It was a very deep, dark and overwhelming day,” she said.
But on Sunday, it felt like a weight had been taken off.
“I’m very emotional. I’ve been trying to hold back my tears. This is a really, really good day for us,” she said.
“Somebody said something that stood out to me. They said, the beacon on the hill has been restored and it’s back.”
Rev. Smith said because of the smoke damage, the entire church was renovated from top to bottom.
After the fire last March, the church was temporarily held at the North Preston Community Centre gym just across the street.
“It’s been a long six months. It’s been a long, long time,” said Samuel Provo-Benoit, who sings in the church choir and has been attending St. Thomas United Baptist Church since he was a baby.
“It feels really good to be back home.”
Smith said she and many others feel as though the church is the most sacred thing in the community.
“When something happens to the church, we’re all affected. But now that it’s…